On this International Women's Day, take the time to reflect on how far women have come and how much more we have to grow. For working women, the corporate world has expanded - according to a study conducted by McKinsey & Company, 78% of companies report being dedicated to developing gender diversity. This is up from 50% from last year. But we still have some ways to go - today, 57% of college graduates are women and women make up 53% of corporate America, however, only 5% of Fortune 500 CEO's are female. Why are women making up higher numbers of graduation and workforce rates, but not the ones running the company?
I was recently sharing some of these workplace frustrations with a coworker. I was explaining to him how as a female, I felt like high profile opportunities were often offered to my male counterparts. My experience, combined with the recent unfriendly gender happenings at Uber was causing me some frustration.
His response surprised me. He suggested using my male coworkers to lead the charge to get what I want. What might this look like?
Supervisor: “(to male coworker) Would you like to work on this high profile project?”
Male coworker: “I appreciate you thinking of me, however I believe (insert female coworker’s name) has an interest in this area and her talents nicely align with the skills required by the project. Let’s go talk to (insert female coworker’s name) to see if she’s interested.”
At first I thought, “Well I’m a leader. Why can’t I use my own talents and skills to get what I want?” Then I stumbled upon this article . The article suggest that men (yes, you read that correctly) should be the ones who strive for gender equality within the workplace. Some suggest the argument behind this is that males can lean on their social status to advocate for diversity while avoiding any possible negative consequences. Unfortunately, I do not possess that same luxury. Think about it…have you ever been in a meeting, said something brilliant, and then have people stare back at you with a confused look on your face? Then your male counterpart says the same thing and all of a sudden, everyone thinks he’s a genius. You’re left sitting there like… "Umm, did I miss something?” I started to realized that it is not a bad thing to let others (especially those who might be in a more favorable position) advocate for my abilities.
In the article Jeffery Tobias Halter, from YWomen, suggests that men could be the ones to lead and be involved in the fight for gender diversity in the workplace.
It takes a courageous leader to initiate these conversations
How do you get started?
1. Don't be afraid to find male mentors! Find someone who can provide a different and unique perspective.
2. Find someone who can advocate for you by starting the conversation. Ask your coworkers if they’ve noticed some of the same behaviors. Then work through a planning process. Sounds like a lot of effort, but it’ll work!
3. Think through some areas of improvement. What resources can you use to your advantage? Halter suggests that “[Male executives] need to know that [the proposed change] isn’t a soft pro-women initiative. They have to know there is rigor, metrics, and measure behind it”.
4. Challenge the status quo. If you notice yourself falling into these behaviors, take a step back and question 'why you aren't offering the same opportunities to your female colleagues.
Use your plan coupled with data and facts, to convince your coworkers and department leaders that this is important!